Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meet Uncle Disney

No one knew Uncle Disney, in fact, no one had even heard of him. He was a rare find thanks primarily to a slow point in my research.

At a time when I didn't know where to direct my research focus, a 'dry spell' as I refer to it, I decided to track the movement, if any, of my Gaull ancestors through Aberdeenshire using the Scottish census returns. I found John Gaull, my great great grandfather, listed in each census, taken every ten years, from 1861 through 1901. There was something different about the 1901 census however. Sure, John and his family were prospering on the the dairy farm that John ran at Cairnley, near Monymusk, Aberdeeenshire but listed as a family member was a month old infant named Disney Hay. Disney's relationship to John, the head of the household, was listed as grandson.

In researching my ancestry, I've come to know this Gaull family well, or so I thought. Older relatives had told me stories of their time as children on the farm, of the trouble they had caused from time to time. But no where had there been a mention of anyone by the name of Disney nor was I aware of any of my great grandmother's sisters marrying someone by the name of Hay. Who was this grandson?

To my astonishment, Disney Hay, I discovered, was the illegitimate son of my great grandmother, Jessie McKenzie Gaull. He was born on February 18, 1901 at the Cairnley farm. His father was a local farm servant also named Disney Hay. Jessie would later marry my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden and have three more boys, including my grandfather, John Gaull Hadden. Disney was my grandfather's half brother and an uncle my father, his siblings and their first cousins would never know.

I don't have a photo of Uncle Disney but do know that on the day he turned 18 years of age, standing all of 5 feet, 3 inches, with dark hair and blue eyes, he joined the Royal Navy. For the next 11 years, through to 1929, Disney served on a number of ships before being discharged to take up a civilian life. Disney eventually married and had a son Leonard.

More searching is required but one day, just maybe, I will have a photo through which I can really 'meet' Uncle Disney.

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